Monday, February 28, 2011

Writing Tag on "Eldrei"

Well, I haven't really written a blog post in ages, but the other day I was flipping through the other blogs that I follow and I found this tag on Eldra's blog.  She tagged all of her followers who were brave enough to try to answer all the questions on this immense tag, so I'm going to do something similar. :D  If  you follow me, and if you haven't already done this tag, then consider yourself officially tagged!

1. What’s your word count?

2. How long until you finish?
Eh… It’s difficult to say.  The rough draft was well over 100k, and as far as this rewrite is going… well, let’s say I took the beginning back to an earlier date in the novel’s timeline… so having to write up to where I started the original story is definitely taking some time.  Knowing that YA novels usually level out somewhere just under 100k, I’d like to say I’m close to about 1/3 of the way done, but knowing what I still have planned for this novel, I’d say the book is more like 1/4 done… maybe…

3. If you have finished, how long did it take you?
I’m not finished with the rewrite and because of other projects I have to deal with right now, I don’t know how long it will be before I finish.  However, I think the RD took me somewhere around 2-3 years to complete at leisure… maybe 4 but I can’t remember anymore.  I started writing Eldrei about a week after I turned 16.

4. Do you have an outline? 
Not for the RD, and for the rewrite?  Well, I consider my RD the outline for my rewrite.

5. Do you have a plot? 
Yes. Or at least I think I do.  There aren’t many people who’ve read what I have of the story, but the plot makes sense in MY head.

6. How many words do you typically write a day?
That really depends on time and my schedule right now.  Typically I might get out somewhere between 500 to 1k on a good day.  On a bad day I’m lucky to get out 100 to 300 words.  I would love to be able to write more than that a day, but my schedule just doesn’t allow it.

7. What was your greatest word count in one day?
I wrote over 10,000 words one day last summer, thanks to my mother. Lol!  She told me she didn’t want to see me come out of my room until I’d completed SOTD.  Well, I didn’t finish, exactly, but I got pretty far.  It’s hard not to, with 10k. :D

8. What was your least impressive word count in one day?
10… I think.  One day.  Unless you count all the days I don’t write at all, and then the answer is 0.

9. What inspired you to write?
It’s funny, because I was finishing up reading LOTR for the third time in a row when suddenly I thought “I can do this!” and I got out of bed and went to my computer.  I had an old 95 compaque from my dad at the time.  And I started writing.  However, what seems even funnier was the fact that even though I had been reading LOTR which is what initially started my writing, a major point in the story was inspired from a small piece of info in Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.  It’s such a very major point that it’s been there from the very start of the story and there’s no way I’ll ever consider taking it out. :D

From then on, however, the story took on a life of its own.

Before that particular night, I was trying to write a sequel (a very lame and amateur sequel) to LOTR, and before that I wrote mostly poetry with a few short stories thrown in for good measure.

10. Does your novel/story have a theme song?
You know, I never really thought of giving my novel a theme song.  If I were to choose, though, I would have to say that it would be “May it Be” from Celtic Women or perhaps “Caislean Oir” by Clannad.  Maybe the “Love Theme from Barry Lyndon” by the Chieftans in some places… It’s sort of hard to give Eldrei a specific theme song as I can see different songs fit it in different places.

11. Assign each of your major characters a theme song.
Hmmm… I’ve never really thought about whether my characters would have theme songs or not…
You know, I think I’ll pass this one.  I can imagine giving an entire story or plot a theme song, but it just doesn’t hit me right to give my characters theme songs… not sure why.

12. Which character is most like you?
Tibain.  That was easy.  I mean, I guess you could say that both he and Arien are equally important to the story, but Tibain is definitely the most like me…

13. Which character would you most likely be friends with?
Oh, I could probably be friend with any of my three major characters… but probably Tibain once again.  I could definitely be friends with Arien, but if you want the truth, she reminds me a lot of one of my younger sisters and while we get along most of the time, sometimes our personalities clash severely. 

14. Do you have a Gary-Stu or Mary Sue character?
I sure hope not!!!

15. Who is your favorite character in your novel?
It used to be that I would have said Tibain, but lately I’ve been messing around in Dakore’s POV, and I’ve discovered that he’s a lot more complicated than I used to think. :D

16. Have your characters ever done something completely unexpected?
Oh yes.

17. Have you based any of your novel directly on personal experiences?
I don’t think so, but I would say that some of what’s in my novel is definitely attributed in some way to my real life.

18. Do you believe in plot bunnies?
Yes.  They like to hop in and out of my brain at the most inopportune moments…

19. Is there magic in your novel/story?
Not as in spells… least not for the good guys.  I can’t remember what the RD had for the bad guys…  

The good guys don’t use spells or anything like that, but my MC’s are gifted, and my “Fae” or “Elvish” characters use a type of “magic” (if you want to call it that) that has to do with singing.  There’s a long and very very complicatedly thought process and reasoning behind this… I may post it someday… but right now it would take up way too much time and space.

20. Are any holidays celebrated in your novel/story?
Hmmm… you know, I’ve never even thought about it.

21. Does anyone die?
Yes.  Of course.  And not just bad guys… :D

22. How many cups of coffee/tea have you consumed during your writing experience?
Lol!  Way too many to count! :D  I am officially addicted to coffee… especially if it’s iced coffee with whipped cream on top (although I’m sure that’s insanely bad for me)… and as for tea… well, once I get started, there is no stopping me for a good long time!

23. What is the latest you have stayed up writing?
Oh I think I managed once to about 7:00 am one time… I don’t think I’ve ever beat that time while writing before, but once it was 10:00 am before I fell asleep after reading all night.  Thankfully it was a Saturday so I was allowed to sleep in. :D

24. What is the best line?
Gosh… That’s a really hard one.  I have some favorites, but I wouldn’t say any of them are “the best” line of the whole story…

25. What is the worst line?
Probably the last one I wrote off the top of my head because then it’s most likely not edited yet. :D

26. Have you dreamed about your novel/story or its characters?
Oh yeah, several times.  But unfortunately it doesn’t usually help me get my characters out of situations…

27. Does your novel rely heavily on allegory?

28. Summarize your novel/story in under fifteen words.
Star Siblings must be returned to their thrones before their arch-enemy succeeds in destroying them.

29. Do you love all your characters?
No. Some of them I like, but actually I wouldn’t say I  “love” any of them completely… (I know that sounds bad…)  It’s just that I like to hurt them all so much and make so many bad things happen to them that “loving” them can be hard in contrast with my evil writer’s side. Lol!

30. Have you done something sadistic or cruel to your characters specifically to increase your word count?
Oh yeah.  Read above post.  ;)

31. What was the last thing your main character ate?
Fish, I think.  Or maybe some other sort of dried meat… but I can’t remember.

32. Describe your main character in three words.
Honorable.  Complicated.  Underestimated.

33. What would your antagonist dress up as for Halloween?
Shoot!  Why would you need to dress up if you were already the biggest, baddest, scariest evil thing to ever exist?!

34. Does anyone in your story go to a place of worship?
Um… the “elvish” characters… yes, if I remember correctly. 

35. How many romantic relationships take place in your novel/story?

36. Are there any explosions in your novel/story?
Maybe… do you count a dragon blowing up things with his fire-breath?  Oh wait, there was one other time…  yes. But that’s in the second book so… well, unless you count the dragon there are no explosions in the first book. :D

37. Is there an apocalypse in your novel/story?
Hmmm… I don’t think so…

38. Does your novel take place in a post-apocalyptic world?

39. Are there zombies, vampires or werewolves in your novel/story?
No.  Never.  Not gonna happen.  And I don’t think you can count my “satan takes over his own demon” scene… which is really scary and actually freaked me out when I wrote it.  I will probably cut it, but I haven’t decided yet. It's really really creepy.  *shivers*

Weird mixed evil creatures?  Yeah, I have a few of those… 

40. Are there witches, wizards or mythological creatures/figures in your novel/story?
Yes… I have gryphons, dragons, centaurs, nymphs, unicorns, “elves” (although I don’t think they are going to be called that in the story), dwarves, phoenixes, fauns, sprites, and fairies… but no witches or wizards.

41. Is anyone reincarnated?
Eh… no.  There is a surprise planned for the last book… and don’t worry, a totally valid, well thought through reason that doesn’t go against any of my Christian beliefs.  But I don’t believe in reincarnation, so none of that.

42. Is anyone physically ailed?
Well, every time I hurt a character, they are physically ailed… they usually get better at some point in time… I think… maybe… hehe!

43. Is anyone mentally ill?
Uh, no.  At least, one of my characters thinks he may be going mentally ill at the beginning of the book, but he’s not and it all gets worked out. :D

44. Does anyone have swine flu?

45. Who has pets in your novel and what are they?
No pets.  Not really… Not in the real sense of the word.  I don’t know if you can call a warrior unicorn a “pet” even if it was your constant guide for the first part of the story, and you can’t call a sprite a “pet” unless you want some mischief worked when you aren’t looking. :)

46. Are there angels, demons, or any religious references/figures in your novel/story?

47. How about political figures? Are there political figures in my book?
Yes… the story has political figures and such, but the story is more centered around a more, eh… I guess you would call it “spiritual” aspect.

48. Is there incessant drinking?
No.  Not in this book.  In one of my other books there is some, but my MC’s never drink much if they drink at all, and then only wine for the purpose of it being a fantasy book.  They never get drunk.  And the person who does get drunk in my other book is a total butt.  (if you’ll excuse my saying so… HE IS THOUGH!)

49. Are there board games? If so, which ones?
Hmm… no, but now I might think of putting something in… maybe… it would be an interesting concept to try and create…

50. Are there any dream sequences?
Only every other page.  Ok, maybe not that much, but dreams and visions play a HUGE roll in this story.  HUGE.

51. Is there humor?
In some cases I sure hope so…

52. Is there tragedy?

53. Does anyone have a temper tantrum?
No hissy-fits.  Frustrated arguments, yes, but not trantrums.

54. How many characters end up single at the end of your novel/story?

And the end of this particular book they are all single.  My characters aren't married at the end of this trilogy either -- at least they aren't to this point.  At the end of this series, however, I’m thinking about maybe planning a very special wedding… but that's around 9 books away. :)

55. Is anyone in your novel/story adopted?
Eh… no.  Not in this one… but they do have a guardian who isn’t their parents, and it is true that they don’t exactly know their parents… but they aren’t really adopted either…

56. Does anyone in your novel/story wear glasses?
Not that I can think of…

57. Has your novel/story provided insight about your life?
Uhhh. . . I think in some cases, yes.

58. Your personality?
Sometimes.  Most of the time it shows up in Tibain.

59. Has your novel/story inspired anyone?
I have no idea.  Not many people have read the rewritten version of it, and I don’t show the RD to ANYONE.

60. How many people have asked to read your novel/story?
A few.  Three or four maybe…

61. Have you drawn any of your characters?
I’ve tried, years ago.  They never came out right.  I might try again someday, but I’m not sure…

62. Has anyone drawn your characters for you?
Yes.  My dad painted a picture of my Dragon for me once on a T-shirt, although I'd sketched out the original.  My dad was an airbrush artist before he had his stroke, and we used to travel the US because majore Mobile Home industries would ask him to come and paint their rigs at rallies they held.  My dragon turned out awesome!

63. Does anyone vomit in your novel/story?

64. Does anyone bleed in your novel/story?
Of course.  Gallons and gallons of the stuff…

65. Do any of your characters watch TV?
TV?  Never heard of it. ;)

66. What size shoe does your main character wear?
Lol!  Never thought to ask him.  He probably wouldn’t tell me anyway… shoot, he probably doesn’t even know!

67. Do any of the characters in your novel/story use a computer?

68. How would you react if your novel/story was erased entirely?
That almost happened once.  I was devastated.  Thankfully it didn’t happen, but I stayed locked in my room for a week trying to figure out how to get the story back, and when I finally did, it had to be entirely reformatted by hand before it was even readable.  I cried a lot, and I might have screamed in anguish some too, but I don’t remember for sure…

69. Did you cry at killing off any of your characters?
No. I tried to write the scene so that I DID cry, but it just didn’t happen.  Maybe it will in the rewrite, but who knows…

70. Did you cheer when killing off one of your characters?
No.  Not even my evil characters (minions, mostly), and I’ve killed off plenty of those.  I think I’d start to be scared for my soul if I cheered when a character died. 

71. What advice would you give to a fellow writer?
Find someone who loves writing as much as you. Talk to them; brainstorm with them.  Then write, write, write.  And when you aren’t writing, read, read, read.  Seriously.  Research comes in many forms, even if you’re just reading for pleasure.  You learn things every day that pertain in one way or another to something you may end up writing about, so don’t take anything for granted… (except maybe math… I have no idea when I will ever use that awful, detestable subject. :D)

72. Describe your ending in three words.
Just three?  You have got to be kidding, right?  Oh… You’re not?  Well it was worth a shot…
Siblings return home…
That just sounds boring… :P

73. Are there any love triangles, squares, hexagons, etc.?

74. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the least stressful, 10 being the most) how does your stress rank?
It’s different all the time depending on what I’m thinking about.  Right now it’s probably rated at a 5-8 because I have a test tomorrow and I have to catch up on some of the homework.  And since I know that at this very moment I am procrastinationg, my stress gets racketed up.  However, some days it might not even register at all…

75. Was it worth it?
I sure hope so.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The God Hater: CSFF blog tour

Well, it' the second day in the blog tour already.  I promised myself that this time I would hit all three days, but *shrug* guess you can't win them all.  Anyway, I finished reading "The God Hater" several weeks ago and was I ever impressed!  When I first heard of the book, I wasn't sure if I should even try to read it: I mean, take a look at that title... should a Christian really read a book that is about someone who hated God?  But then I read the synopsis... and since I have proved several times over that I am no good at summing up this book in front of my friends, I'm just going to give you the synopsis I read. :D

A cranky, atheist philosophy professor loves to shred incoming freshmen of their faith. He is chosen by a group of scientists to create a philosophy for a computer-generated world exactly like ours.
Much to his frustration every model introduced from Darwinism, to Existentialism, to Eastern beliefs fails. The only way to preserve the computer world is to introduce laws from outside their system through a Law Giver. Of course this goes against everything he believes and he hates it. But even this doesn't completely work because the citizens of that world become legalists and completely miss the spirit behind the Law.
The only way to save them is to create a computer character like himself to personally explain it. He does. So now there are two of him—the one in our world and the one in the computer world.
Unfortunately, a rival has introduced a virus into the computer world. Things grow worse until the professor in that computer world sees the only way to save his world is to personally absorb the virus and the penalty for breaking the Law. Of course it's clear to all, including our real world professor, that this act of selfless love has become a complete reenactment of the Gospel. It is the only possible choice to save the computer world and, as he finally understands, our own.

Now if that doesn't pique your interests, I'm not sure what will.  It sure grabbed hold of mine, and refused to let them go!


This book was well written with a very believable storyline.  The message was very good, and noticeable, but never preachy.  Instead of the message being like someone in your face telling you what's right and what's wrong, and why you should be a certain way, Bill Myers actually wrote the message so that it came through by the character discovering the truth behind God's sacrifice for himself.  To me, this felt unique.  I mean, it's hard to write something and put a message into a book like this so subtly that each time the message surfaces while reading it, it's like a new revelation all on its own.  I was impressed.

Besides this, however, the book had a solid plot and kept me engaged the entire time.  I had a hard time putting it down.  It also had a good balance between action plot, theology, and philosophy... all interesting subjects. Nicholas, the MC, is a Philosophy professor and what I found most interesting was that much of his outlook on the religion in general made a strange kind of sense... it was both interesting and terrifying because it made me realize just how easy it is for some people to ignore Christ on the pretenses built up by their own minds, how easy it is even for todays Christians to steal themselves against God's truths if they really really wanted to.  It made me, as a Christian, realize that I have to build myself up in Christ with his word and with prayer if I want to stay true to him and not fall to the lies of the world, even though they seem to make sense.

Actually, I didn't have any problems with this book whatsoever.  I had a friend tell me that she wasn't quite satisfied with the ending, but for me the ending work just perfectly... actually sent chills down my spine, but in a good way.  

With all that said, this is my verdict: 

Great message; Great book.  I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone... seriously.  If you haven't read it yet, READ IT.  You won't regret it.  5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Oh America! :(

Oh America! Look how far you've fallen!

Oh Man kind, how low you have brought yourself! To the very dirt… to the dirt!

Can't you see your error? Can't you see? You have become a broken people, fighting, dissenting, debating Me! Debating My purposes for you… Debating My words. Do I mean them? Perhaps I only gave them to you as guidelines… I could not have meant what I said. I only gave My words to you to hold you back…

Oh America! Look up! Look to Me! Seek Me out! I am waiting here to comfort you, waiting here to hold you close… I long to wrap my arms around you! I long to show you all I have purposed for you! I long to reveal the mysteries of Myself to your eyes… to your hearts!

But you push Me away. You shun me, and your sons and daughters debate the political and literary purpose of my Holy Word. You say, "why would He say that? He cannot love us if he says that. He cannot have meant what he said, if he truly loves us."

Oh America! Look how far you've fallen!

Will you not rise up and see the sun I created for your eyes? Breathe the air I made into being for your lungs?

"It is a jest!" You say, "All but a game! We will put God in a Box and we will make Him play for us! We will say, 'There is a God, but only if He does what we want him to do… only if He acts a certain way.'

Oh My People! You have fallen far indeed.

But not so far that I will not rescue you. Not so far that you can call to me and I will not hear. No… not so far. I can still hear your cries, your pleas for help. I can still hear your moans as the prince of earth struggles to strangle you, as he throws his chains about you and wraps you in deceit. I reach out to you… but you look away. You do not really want my help.

Oh America! Look up to me! Seek me as you once did! Find me in the secret place where we once met, the place where your nation was first built! Find me in the solitude of your heart and the quiet stillness of My truth! Look for me by the still waters; sleep in My green pastures… I will meet you there!

Oh America!!!! Come back to Me!!!!


I kept hearing that ring in my head as I was sitting through my history class today. We are talking about the founding of our nation, and how many people crossed over from Britain to seek religious freedom. Then the class started discussing the morals of the Bible and God's true purpose for giving us the Bible, and whether it should be taken at face value or taken selectively, and whether or not God would be such a hypocrite as to say He loves people and then supposedly not love gay people… I was so close to just walking out it's not even funny. But throughout the entire debate, I kept hearing in my head, "Oh America, look how far you've fallen!" and seeing flashes of things throughout history. And then I would hear, "You were built on my principals… that is the only reason you have survived. And the only reason Mankind has survived is because you keep turning to Me… but then you turn away again, and fall even farther than before…"

So anyway. I just thought I'd share. Take this how you will…


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fun Updates... and Caffeine. Wheee!!!! :D

Hello people!  I just had caffeine and... yeah, the effects haven't worn off yet!  So, of course, that makes this the perfect time for a blog update! :D

I just thought I would give people a heads up on a few things that will be happening around here in the near future.  First of all, I've been working on yet another rewrite of SOTD.  The going's been slow because, for some reason, my muse decided to take a vacation from November through January, but at last I have enough words down that I know she's come back and that this rewrite will "stick".  As a result of this revelation, I've swapped out the old prologue and first chapter on the "Read an Excerpt" page for the new first chapter.  (I'm hoping with this new rewrite there will be no need for a prologue. :D)  I've also updated the book blurb, so if you have time and are looking for something to read, drop by the excerpt page and let me know what you think!

In other news, I've decided to start a "sketchings" page, as well as a "paintings" page on the blog to showcase some of my artwork.  The page titles tell exactly what will be on the pages (of course... teehee!).  Expect the pages to show up at anytime.  My artwork never goes beyond a PG rating, and that for only one painting that I haven't decided to post yet.

On another note, I am now open for artwork commissions if there is anyone interested.  As of right now, I'm not going to post a price range, as I am still trying to figure that out.  But if anyone is interested in commissioning a drawing or painting, you can email me at and we can discuss pricing.  :D

I've also decided to put up another page that sort of talks about my current writing projects.  This is mostly so I can keep track of them and stay accountable.  And I'm debating as to whether or not to put up a poetry page as well just for the fun of it.  :)

I also have some new posts I need to get to, most of them book reviews, and at least one about J.R.R. Tolkien.  The post I'm currently working on is titled "Content, Content, Presentation..."  I'm not sure when I will finish it though, but hopefully within the week.  The books I'll be doing reviews on are:

The Personifid Project
The Personifid Invasion
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
By Darkness Hid
The Charlatan's Boy

And possibly more if I can remember what they are.  :D ;)

Let me know what you think of these updates!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Interview with Rachel Starr Thompson :D

Today please welcome author Rachel Starr Thompson to the blog.  Thank you for coming Rachel. :D

NW:   So how did reading impact your life as a young child and then into adulthood?

RST:  My dad read to us kids when we were small (Narnia and A.A. Milne poetry, among other things), so reading was always a big part of my life. I read way ahead of my grade level all through the “school” years. Reading was a great way to escape, learn, and fuel my imagination, which was always pretty active! And it still is.

NW:   Did you always love to write?  When you were younger did you always know you were going to be an author – and a published one at that?

RST:  I wrote picture books as a really young kid, and I wrote my first novel when I was 13 or 14 and dallied with the idea of being a writer. I fantasized about being published and famous. But I had a lot of other things I wanted to do too—be a singer, be a missionary, be a scientist. I wasn’t one of those writers who just “knew” this was what I would be doing.

NW:  What are some of your favorite books, Christian or not?  Who are your favorite authors?

RST:   My favourite current authors are probably Jeffrey Overstreet, George Bryan Polivka, and Marc Schooley, who are all amazing with words. Stephen Lawhead was very influential to me as well. I love Annie Dillard, Charlotte Bronte, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, A.A. Milne, George MacDonald, and a lot of old English poets. And of course the Bible, which I really do love as a book and not just as the foundation of my faith, if that makes sense. I’m sure I haven’t named half. I read pretty eclectically.

NW:   When did you decide to write Christian Fantasy rather than any other genre, and what made you decide that?

RST:  Most of the stories going through my head were and always have been fantasy. But I do write other things—I write a lot of devotional nonfiction and essays, and I like more formal kinds of nonfiction as well. Even so, most of the stories that really grab my attention and want me to write them are fantasy. I think I’m attracted to the wonder, the beauty, and the “otherness” possible in such stories.

NW:      Yeah, there's this sense of possibility that is really tantalizing that type of writing.  I love it!

      As you know, different writers have different ideas about how the writing process should work.  Some people like to outline the entire story before they ever start writing, and others prefer sitting down and writing whatever comes to them first right off the top of their heads.  Still other writers like to mix those two different approaches when they decide to write their books.  How do you approach the writing process, and why do you approach it that way?

RST:   I used to do it all by the seat of my pants, but that’s gotten really inefficient, so now I do something in between. I usually have an idea of the beginning and the end, plus a few touchpoints along the way. I write a few chapters to get a feel for the story and then outline the remainder of the book.

NW:      I've started to outline a little bit as well; you're right.  It really does help.

       I haven’t read all of your first book yet – *sheepish smile* -- but I’m enjoying it so far.  I was curious, though, about how this idea came to you and why you chose the characters you did.  Are the names of your characters significant in any way, to you or to your story? Could you tell us a little bit about that?

RST:   The names aren’t significant—names tend to jump into my head fully formed, along with some idea of the characters they belong to, so I just use them as they come. As for the story, it’s a composite of many stories I’ve been telling myself since I was a child. The story idea that eventually became Worlds Unseen was sparked when I was reading about the early Christian reformer John Huss and wondered how the Reformation might have played out in another world or time. But the story went pretty far afield from that original idea.

NW:  You’re cover art is amazing, and I hear that it is the work of your sister.  How awesome is that?!  I was just curious; do you possess similar artistic abilities with a paint brush? And if so, would you ever want to paint your own cover for any of your future books?

RST:   It is pretty awesome; and nope, I don’t. I’ll sketch sometimes just for fun but I have absolutely no talent at it. I do sing.

NW:   Ms. Thompson, you are a published author who writes Christian Speculative Fiction.  I understand you decided to create your own publishing company through which to publish your books, and that the company is called “Little Dozen Press”.  Are there any specific reasons you chose to publish your books this way over publishing them through a traditional house?  Did you ever try to publish your books traditionally before you decided to publish them yourself?

RST:   First, I just wanted to experiment with publishing; and second, I thought putting some of my own work out would be a good way to start building readership. I have many, many manuscripts, and I couldn’t shop them all to traditional publishers at once, so I figured I would independently publish a few. I still intend to pursue trade publishing for other manuscripts.

And no, I never tried to get the trilogy published traditionally. By the time I was really interested in writing more seriously, Worlds Unseen was already close to ten years old.

NW:      Is there a traditional publishing house you prefer to read from over any of the others?

RST:   Well, I am pretty impressed with the speculative fiction being put out by Marcher Lord Press, WaterBrook, and Living Ink (AMG).

NW:  Well, they have some good stuff coming out recently.  Would you ever try to publish one of your books through a traditional house in the future? Why or why not?

RST:   Yes, as I said above. And I would do it because I think I could benefit, as a writer, from the partnership. It would also be easier for me to reach readers in some ways—not that I would expect my publisher to “do all the work for me,” but that they could get books into places I can’t (or at least, I can’t without jumping through some pretty serious hoops).

NW:  So if you could choose, which publishing house would be your preference  for your books and why?

RST:   I don’t think I could name a particular one. I would want a publishing house that really believed in my writing and was willing to work with me to get it out there. And I would like one with some reach outside of the Christian market as well.

NW:   I think I know what you mean.  All important things to consider. 
    So, this might be a hard question (it would be if I had to answer it.  :D), but I was wondering about your outlook on the great publishing debate – self publishing vs. Traditional Publishing.  How do you think Self Publishing and e-publishing effect the traditional market for Christian Speculative Fiction, and why do you think that?

RST:   That is a big question. Indie and e-publishing are affecting everything right now—in different ways. Many Christian spec fic readers are online, so indie publishers have unprecedented ability to reach them. On the other hand, traditional publishers still demand a level of excellence from writers and command a level of trust from readers that self-publishers don’t necessarily have.

NW:   How good do you think the chances are for a new CSF writer to self publish and “make it” in today’s market?

RST:   You would have to define “make it.” Can you self-publish your work and make a few hundred dollars a year, or even a few thousand? Yes; I’m doing it. Can you self-publish your work, quit your job, and retire to Hawaii? Probably not. But it depends on how hard you work and how savvy you are at the business end of things.

NW:   It seems to me that it can be difficult to find good Christian Speculative Fiction books in today’s traditional book market.  Many people already know that traditional publishing houses are struggling against the economy, along with this new demand for e-books and digital downloading, not to mention the rise of POD publishing and self-publishing.  And of course there is online shopping with Amazon, B&N, and the e-book store “Smashwords”.  Just out of curiosity, what do you think is going to happen with Traditional Publishing houses in the near future?  Will they make a comeback, or fall to the ease of POD?

RST:   It’s actually a misnomer to pit “POD” against “traditional publishing houses.” POD, or Print-On-Demand, is a technology, and many publishers—even major ones—already use it. (Marcher Lord Press, which I mentioned earlier, is able to exist as a small, extremely specialized press for Christian spec fic only precisely because they use POD technology and untraditional methods of distribution.) Likewise, e-publishing is not a threat to them; rather, it’s another way for them to put out their titles and reach readers. I think there is going to be a lot of change, but I don’t think the “traditional publisher” will disappear. The lack of quality control among self/subsidy-publishers is one of the reasons for this. Readers and reviewers, for good reason, trust big publishers.

NW:  Hmmm.... very true.   What is your outlook on e-books?  What do you think will happen to the paper book trade in the near future?

RST:   I don’t think paper books will go away. Even if most people switch to e-reading (which could happen), POD makes it possible to keep paper books cheaply available for those who want them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get more expensive over time. And yes, I think we’ll see a lot more people e-reading in the next few years.

NW:   I’ve heard different views on Self Publishing Vs. Traditional Publishing.  One common myth around the writing world is that it’s a bad idea to self publish because an author would be starting at the very beginning without a way to build a following.  I’ve seen strong evidence against such a claim and your books easily suggest such evidence, but I was curious about your point of view on the matter?

RST:   Actually, if you put out good work (and plenty of it), I think self-publishing is an excellent way to start building a following. As I’ve already said, that was one of my key reasons for publishing my trilogy. I can find readers and get my work into the world this way. However, self-publishing WELL requires business savvy and commitment. Mind you, those things will be really helpful to a traditionally published author as well.

NW:   If it’s not too bold to ask, how are your books doing in today’s market?

RST:  Not too bad :). But it depends on what your expectations are. I certainly don’t sell in anything like major numbers. But I make a bit of money, connect with readers, and get good reviews, so I think they’re doing well. Sales and readership have steadily picked up each year.

NW:   I know that marketing is an important part of publishing a book, and it’s especially important if you decide to self publish because then you are almost solely responsible for marketing and publicizing, not to mention editing, formatting, and deciding on cover art before the book even goes to print.    While this amount of responsibility may seem daunting to some writers, there is certainly an alluring sense of freedom and control that can also come with such responsibilities.  Is there any advice you can give writers contemplating self publishing that would help them in these areas of the publishing process?

RST:   Yes: Do Your Research. And if you can’t do something well, hire someone to do it. Your book is your business card. It’s your public face. Make it something you wouldn’t be ashamed to have a major publisher look at.

NW:   Is there anything you did while publishing your books that you regret?

RST:   Well, when I first got started, I didn’t do my homework! So I wasted a bunch of time (and a little bit of money) because I didn’t know what I was doing. Education is always worth the time it takes.

NW:   Is there anything you did while publishing your books that you ended up being proud of or surprised by?

RST:   I requested endorsements for my book on the Lord’s prayer and got a really good one from Michael Phillips, who is a pretty well-known Christian author. He said “This book is not merely a job well done, though it is that, it is truly a significant contribution to the devotional literature on the Lord’s Prayer. I thought it was one of the best things on the Lord’s Prayer I have read–not a study or an exposition, but a true devotional experience based on Jesus’ prayer.” So that was pretty cool.

NW:  That is cool... and that's a truly epic review!  :D  Is there anything you feel able to talk about that you are planning to do in the future to further your books in the publishing market?

RST:   As I’ve said, I’d like to get into trade publishing at some point. Right now, I’m concentrating on getting the trilogy out to more readers via online marketing and relationship-building.

NW:   What is your outlook on social networking and blogging in furthering the market for your books?  How does it affect your following?  If you could start from the very beginning again, would you do anything differently than you are now?

RST:   In the Internet age, “marketing” is just a fancy word for “building relationships.” And social media makes it really easy to do that. If I could start over again, I would concentrate on my Facebook PAGE, a separate entity from my personal profile, much sooner. And I would find the right stride for my blog—I still don’t feel like I’ve hit that.

NW:   Right now the publishing world is precariously teetering between digital and Pod publishing, and the traditional venues.  Which way do you think the dice will fall?  Why?

RST:  I think I’ve pretty much expressed all I have to say on this one already—I think trade publishers will get more savvy about technology, and quite possibly the decades-old distribution and pricing models will change. I don’t think trade publishers will disappear completely. I DO think smart, hard-working indie authors will be able to get a lot further than they could in the past.

NW:  Last question, I promise. :D  Is there any advice concerning writing that you can give other aspiring authors out there?  Is there any other advice concerning publishing that you feel you can share with us?

RST:   If you want to write, read and write as much as you can. Pay attention to what you read and apply it in your writing. If you want to publish, read industry news and blogs and learn about the world you’re entering before you enter it.

Thanks you Rachel for doing this interview!

You can find out more about Rachel Starr Thompson, her books, and her publishing company at

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Self Publishing VS. Traditional Publishing: Interview with Scott Appleton

Today please welcome Scott Appleton, author of The Sword of the Dragon series and owner of Flaming Pen Press.  Scott, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview!  

NW:    First and foremost, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

SA:  I was homeschooled by my parents. They chose to do that for religious reasons, wanting to keep me out of the secular public school system and the peer pressure that inhibits so many young peoples’ chances of success. I always loved to read and write. I told stories and wrote them down for my siblings. The wilder the tale, the more imaginative—or crazy—the more they loved it. I read a lot of history books, more than fiction, and never fantasy. When I was 18, I started putting together a fantasy story. I found it was the greatest outlet for my creativity. Since then I have spent six years pursuing a contract with a large Christian publishing house. I ended up self-publishing my first novel, but I built my own publishing company to do so. I hired a pro fiction editor, cover designer, artists, etc. and produced a product that sold 3,000-copies in one year. My wife and I traveled to 13 states, I spoke to thousands of students, and attracted the attention of AMG Publishers. Last year I signed a three-book-contract with AMG for my series The Sword of the Dragon. Book one is coming out mid-February, book two will release on July 15, 2011.

NW:  How did reading effect your childhood and then your life on into adulthood?

SA:  I read, and always have read, a large number of books. But the vast majority are non-fiction. I find non-fiction roots me in reality and makes me aspire to follow the heroes and successes down through history. I’m a collector of antique books, particularly volumes from the mid-1800’s. It is amazing how history has been muddled by the modern author trying to be politically correct. The old history books are untainted and provide me with hours of reading pleasure and education on facts that have been lost to modern society.

NW:  Did you always love to write, or was that something that you grew to love over the course of time?

SA:  I always loved both. I filled pages with stories, followed my mother to every library sale… I owned over a thousand of my own books by my twelfth birthday.

NW:  Wow... that's a really impressive amount of books!  So what is the writing process like for you?  I guess what I’m really asking here is, how do you get into that writing “groove”?

SA:  I generally sit at my laptop, put on my headphones, and listen to some epic soundtracks. The music helps me focus, zone out, and generally keeps my attention on the story so that if someone walks into the room I can work on, undistracted.

NW:  Tell us a little bit about your book Swords of the Six, and the new one coming out this year, Offspring.
SA:  Swords of the Six is a prelude novel, setting the stage for the big events in the Sword of the Dragon series. The story begins when a dragon prophet is betrayed by his choice warriors. He takes the traitors’ swords and gives them to human daughters, whom he hatches from eggs. The sisters set out to find the first traitor who escaped justice, with an offer of pardon from the dragon.

In Offspring The offspring of the dragon, born out of ultimate sacrifice, grows into a young woman. Unknown to those around her, the beloved warrior, Specter, keeps guard over her. But the enemy has grown strong and draws near to destroy the hope she symbolizes.

NW:  I know that Specter was my favorite character in SOTS.  I'll look forward to reading more about him in Offspring.  So what is the main story behind your entire book series, Sword of the Dragon?  I mean, SOTS is really good, and I’m sure Offspring will be even better… but what really ties all of the books together?

SA:  That is a tricky question, not because the story thread isn’t apparent to me, but because there are elements in each book that gradually reveal the mystery as it unfolds. The series’ story arc is the dragon’s plan to bring Letrias to justice for his betrayal and his crimes. Letrias has grown powerful as a wizard unto himself, and among those who work to deliver his downfall is the captain he once thought dead. The dragon prophet has been prohibited by God from directly dealing with Letrias, so he sets events in motion to accomplish that end by means of his agents.

NW:  I’m excited to hear that your book Sword of the Six will now be published through AMG.  You must be totally stoked!  As an author, how do you feel about this big step in publishing?

SA:  I am totally stoked! This is a dream come true, quite fully and literally. Signing with AMG gives my books greater clout in the publishing world, including more opportunities to sell in venues previously unavailable to me, such as wholesale stores. It also means that I can focus on selling, doing the leg work, while someone else deals with the tedious financial end of things.

NW:  Scott, you are a writer in a very unique position; not many people can rise up to take their book and themselves from relatively “unknown” to “known” by publishing the book themselves.  Still fewer dare make the decision to create their own company in the process.  Can you tell us what that process was like for you?  How did you make that decision?

SA:  I was working back and forth with AMG a few years ago. At the time, Dan Penwell was their acquisitions editor. He believed in my book and in me. Although he pushed for them to publish it, things fell through. But during the entire process I had been reading up on all aspects of publishing. I learned that six out of ten novels never sell over a thousand copies, and that when a book does sell past a thousand it can catch a publisher’s eye. I was an experienced salesman and had worked in retail for several years. I felt confident publishing my book was what God wanted me to do and that if I worked hard and persevered, He would reward my efforts.

I don’t believe there are many chance successes. I believe if you want to be successful you have to step out and do it, and close yourself off from anyone who discourages you.

My wife and I toured 13 states, selling many books at schools. It was by hitting the road that I saw real success.

Failure in this was never an option for me, so I had to make it a success.

NW:  It sounds like you really knew what you were doing; I mean, selling 3,000 copies is intimidating... even more so when you've sold that many books in one year!

So I know you’ve recently published through Flaming Pen Press an anthology of some of your short stories.  I’m sure you have ideas for future novels too; novels that aren’t part of The Sword of the Dragon series.  Looking at your past accomplishments, would you plan to publish such future novels through Flaming Pen Press first, or would you try to go straight to the bigger houses?

SA:  There are many other projects on my table. I plan to do most of my books through other publishing houses, mostly because it would be a challenge and very satisfying. I am presently working on a science-fiction political thriller that I may or may not publish myself. One of the chief factors in this consideration is I want stellar artwork, which many publishers are unwilling to look into. But I also have a YA fantasy trilogy titled Earth Passage, and I will shop that to a larger publisher.

NW:  How do you know when your writing is good enough for you to publish it on your own without a publisher’s help?

SA:  I don’t. For Swords of the Six I relied on peer criticism (authors published by large houses) and the professional fiction editor, Rebecca Miller (she worked on Bryan Davis’s series Dragons In Our Midst). As to my anthology By Sword By Right, many of the stories contained in that collection had already been published by magazines, and the rest fit into the book’s intended purpose: to show the reader my progression as a writer.

NW:   What do you consider the benefit of self publishing in a world where many people look down on such authors and consider them “half-baked” even when they are not?

SA:  The benefit of self-publishing? If an author has truly studied the market, sought professional advice, and read up on the details of publishing, they can produce an effective product and market it to their target audience with greater profit on each book sold than they would by going with a large publishing house.

However, I know of no one else who has gone about publishing their book in the manner I did. Unfortunately most authors go into self-publishing blind, and as a last resort or desperate, frustrated move. And most authors get sucked into the Print-On-Demand service providers (believing those places to be publishers, even though they are not).

NW:    How do you think Self Publishing and e-publishing effect the traditional market for Christian Speculative Fiction?

SA:  That’s a hard and long question. I’m not sure how to answer this except to say that e-publishing is an exciting venue. It can be very lucrative for the author. The market is swamped with Print On Demand authors of this genre, however few of them stand out because they have not truly researched. Patience is the key to success in this career; patience and who you make connections with.

NW:   Is there anything you did while publishing your books that you regret?

SA:  No, not that I can think of. I am a very deliberate person. I researched my options and then made my selections. The product I produced is beautiful, even enviable.

NW:   Is there anything you did while publishing your books that you ended up being proud of or surprised by?

SA:   I was surprised by the audience I attracted. I had not expected so many middle schoolers to go crazy over my first novel. That age group is still my most loyal following.

And I was very proud of the re-written prelude to my novel. The editor suggestion I make alterations but instead I revamped it. It is the first piece of writing that people think of when they talk of Swords of the Six.

NW:   Cool!  I enjoyed reading your prelude the first time, but now I want to know how you rewrote it.  The one I read was definitely exciting: it really makes the entire book.

Is there anything you feel able to talk about that you are planning to do in the future to further your books in the publishing market?

SA:   I am going to push my books in the wholesale clubs and hopefully in Walmart and Target. I am good at selling my product. All I need is a line of customers and those stores offer that opportunity… but first I have to get the In with them.

NW:   What is your outlook on social networking and blogging in furthering the market for your books?  How does it affect your following?  If you could start from the very beginning again, would you do anything differently than you are now?

SA:  Online marketing is tricky for me. I have found it too easy to spend too much time online, and my writing suffers as a result. On the other hand, most of my fans keep in touch online and I love the interaction. If I started from the beginning again I probably would have started with a professional website. I have one now at and it has proved invaluable.

NW:   I've looked at your site.  It really is well done.  I can't seem to get the hang of website-building myself... but maybe someday.  It's one of those things that take practice. :)

Right now I feel like the publishing world is precariously teetering between digital and Pod publishing, and the traditional venues.  Which way do you think the dice will fall?  Why?

SA:   All three will survive. Each serves a different purpose, meets a different need. POD answers the need for niche books, but the cost per unit is too high for selling thousands of copies. Traditional venues are shifting, but not going away. I think chain bookstores will gradually give way to the large retail stores that sell books. People will be going into Walmart and Target more often, where they can buy the books at a similar price to Amazon. Last year several hundred bookstores closed, nationwide. But folks still want to feel the book in their hand, not simply look at it online.

Digital publishing is a great opportunity to put books in the hands of more readers. But book lovers everywhere will continue to buy the print book as well as their Kindle copy (I have seen this evidenced in the sales of my books; never has the Kindle sales hurt the physical sales).

In closing, I don’t think the market is teetering. We are looking at a decade of new gizmos; gadgets that the consumer wants in order to keep up with the Jones’s. Some of these fads will fade, but physical books will remain. After all, I don’t think we can deny that if everything we did required batteries we would soon tire of it. The digital books are part of our fast-paced world; a hurried world that many readers are trying to escape when they pick up a book.

NW:    I can agree with you there.  

What are some of the biggest differences you can mark between Flaming Pen Press and other houses?

SA:   We deal with YA fantasy fiction, primarily. The most similar house to ours would be Marcher Lord Press, but they don’t look at YA. But unlike Marcher Lord Press, we put some of our titles into stores. We are unique.

NW:    What are some of the differences between self publishing through your own company and publishing through AMG that have affected you the most?

SA:   I feel freed up to write, which is awesome. I’ve been too busy with the business side of publishing; writing is my passion.
NW:    Flaming Pen Press released the book Kestrel’s Midnight Song last year which, if I understand correctly, was nominated for and awarded a Children’s Moonbeam award.  I am personally in awe of Jacob Parker’s ability to write a novel and get it noticed at such a young age.  And the story itself is amazing too.  Can you tell us what made you, as a publisher, take a second look at this book and decide to publish it?

SA:   I read the prelude on his blog and was impressed. He was web-savvy and understood the commitment needed to market the book. I found his manuscript spiritually compelling. The rest was history, as Jacob would say. He has now sold over 2,000 books, phenomenal!

NW:    It is indeed!

Tell us a little bit about the story of Kestrel’s Midnight Song (as I’m sure many readers out there have not read it yet.)

SA:   This would be better to direct at the author. I’m sure he’d be thrilled to do an interview here, too (-:

NW:   I'll be sure to ask him!  

As a Publisher, Editor, and Reader, what is your company looking for in a manuscript and author?

SA:   Originality is the first and primary key to success with me. I don’t like knock-offs. Don’t send me anything with elves in it, or tell me it’s the next Harry Potter. I look for a teachable author, or one that has educated themselves on the industry. It is very important that they be inventive and aggressive in their marketing, as FPP is a small company.

NW:    As an author who saw a literary need, and then created your own publishing company to fill said need, what would you tell others who might consider taking on such an endeavor as starting their own company to fill a niche market?

SA:   Research, research, research. Don’t wing it, educate yourself so that you know what you’re getting into. There are plenty of surprises along the way without adding a lack of knowledge to your worries.

NW:    What would you tell young authors out there who are considering self publishing?

SA:   Don’t jump into it. Do your homework. And don’t publish your manuscript: get it professionally critiqued and edited by a known fiction editor. Spend the money required to get it done right; first impressions are everything.

NW:     Is there anything else you would like to say to other readers and writers out there?

SA:   Check out my books and my website!

NW:  Will do!

Thank you so much Scott for talking with us!  It really was an enlightening and enjoyable experience.

For those of you who would like to find out more about Scott Appleton, you can visit him at his author website at or you can check out his publishing company at